Wearing a mask has become part of our lives as we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. What was once a novel injection into our daily routines has become a regular occurrence. Masks are not just about protecting you or your family members, but also the people in the supermarkets we visit, the parks we walk in, the hospitals where our essential workers grind with tireless effort. Therefore, it is important to not only consider the quality of the masks we wear, but the frequency at which we use each individual mask.
A study (Effects of mask-wearing on the inhalability and deposition of airborne SARS-CoV-2 aerosols in human upper airway) was recently conducted with the objective of finding the effects of mask wearing on airflow and the absorption of viral particles on the face and respiratory tract. The study found that when masks were worn, the speed of airflow and particles slowed. The redistribution of airflow favored inhalability of particles into the nose and the upper airway. A typical surgical mask, when worn for the first time, is able to filter these particles with a 65% filtration efficiency (FE), thus reducing the viral load by half when the smallest of particles are inhaled. However, the slowing of particles after wearing a mask can increase the chance of particles to land on the face or be inhaled in either the mouth or nose. When consistently used, the FE of the mask drops to as low as 25%, making prevention considerably less effective.